September 2011 Archives

Why is there no contract disclosure language on a marriage license application in California?

September 7, 2011, by

As probably the most common and incredibly complex contracts that a party can sign, why is there no requirement for acknowledgement of the laws, obligations, and responsibilities? Why is there no arbitration or mediation clause?

It would be enormously helpful to prospective marriage partners to be informed about the financial and other considerations of the contract they are entering that is commonly referred to as marriage. Many married couples don't understand that retirement plans and other assets and debts accumulated during the marriage are community property. Debt assumed during the marriage - even if in one party's name - is a community obligation. If one party works and the other does not, the earners sometimes think their earnings are theirs alone.

There is insufficient basic information about the contractual rights and obligations that should be understood and agreed to before marriage. This information would resolve many problems if and when the marriage fails. And a standard arbitration or mediation clause that is typically found in most all other contracts would, in the event of marital breakdown, be the first step in an out of court process that would save the courts, and most couples, a great deal of time, energy and money. 

In California you can't buy a house, or a car, or even join a gym without a multi-page contract, with various provisions in bold print, and initialed by the buyer.
 But marriage? All one must do is state they are not married to anyone else, sign as needed and pay the fee. 

Alas, common sense is not common. With governments at all levels bought and paid for, reform in this area is highly unlikely as there are many groups with religious and economic interests in keeping marriage fast and easy. For starters, consider the wedding business itself. Talking about marriage more as an important contract between informed and consenting adults, rather than as the most transformative moment in one's life and the Madison Avenue bridal magazines with emotion driven ads might lose some of their appeal.

Divorce is Painful But Not This Painful

September 1, 2011, by

In July of 2011, an obviously angry and unhappy 48 year old wife from Garden Grove in southern California whose husband of 16 months had recently filed for divorce cut off her 60 year old husband's penis and then tossed it into the garbage disposal.

According to the police, Catherine Kieu Becker made her husband a delicious and unbeknownst to the husband, poison laced dinner and served it to him.

As the dinner (poison) kicked in, the husband felt sick and went to lie down. Shortly thereafter he lost consciousness and Becker tied his arms and legs to the bed with a rope and stripped him naked. She took a 10-inch kitchen knife and began sawing away at her husband's penis, according to police.

This caused the husband to awake and he was conscious when his penis was removed, police said.

To add insult to injury, Becker then tossed his sliced off penis into the garbage disposal and turned it on, mutilating the organ. Consequently, the severed organ could not be reattached through surgery.

She did have the courtesy to call 911. When police arrived, she told them that "he deserved it" as she pointed to the room where her husband was bleeding profusely. He was taken to a local hospital and is reportedly recovering after surgery.

Police took Becker into custody and she was was arrested on suspicion of aggravated mayhem, false imprisonment, assault with a deadly weapon, administering a drug with intent to commit a felony, poisoning, and spousal abuse.

Becker is a real estate broker and she and her estranged husband met at church.
Although positive, supportive, and constructive approaches to ending a marriage such as mediation and Collaborative Divorce are by far the best choices, even a nasty, costly, toxic and protracted litigation would be better than this outcome. And in this case, the divorce is not finished and is sure to be most unpleasant.